The Kresge Town Hall was filled last Wednesday night with roughly 200 faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students prepared to discuss future tactics in preventing furloughs, fee increases and layoffs similar to those that have ensued this year. The meeting, hosted by the Student Union Assembly (SUA), was held to form a coalition to address the current statewide budget crisis in wake of the last week’s occupation of the Humanities 2 building at UC Santa Cruz.
Victor Sanchez, the external vice chair of SUA and moderator of general assembly, decided to create this event as the first public dialogue on budget issues since the Sept. 24 walkout.
“Being the voice of all undergraduate students, we felt it was necessary to try to bring all sides together,” Sanchez said. “We know that there are people out there who don’t agree with the tactics that are being used and we also know that there are people who have interest in getting involved.”
On the night of Oct. 15, a handful of students affiliated with “Occupy California,” a radical student group that formed to resist budget cuts, barricaded themselves in the Humanities 2 building. The occupation took place after a dance party and was followed by several students damaging school property.
While some feel that illegal action is the best way to resist the budget crisis, others say they would like to be active against the cuts in a different way.
Cowell second-year Caroline Youlios attended the dance and felt that the occupation was ineffective in raising awareness among students.
“The guy in charge was trying to talk about the occupation and raise awareness through a megaphone and the kids at the dance were yelling at him to stop so that they could keep dancing,” Youlios said. “I would think that if students were attending a dance in order to create change, they would at least want to hear about what they are dancing for.”
City councilmember and community studies lecturer Mike Rotkin, who received a pink slip that will terminate his position at UCSC on July 1, hoped the meeting would clear any confusion about the issues facing the university. He also said that attendees should realize that faculty, students and staff are all in this together.
“The low-wage workers on campus don’t want the furloughs to happen and the students don’t want another fee increase, and people in my unit want to decrease the layoffs. If we don’t find some way of realizing what we are doing is a common effort, we are not going to be able to … conquer,” Rotkin said.
At the meeting, a calendar was established to that included dates of future events and ideas to help bring an end to the turmoil from the cuts. Some of the calendar items listed were the Berkeley Mobilizing Conference on Oct. 24, a general strike on May 1, and the Gould commission at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay Community Center.
Rotkin has faith in the power of people coming together when there is a common force to fight against.
“We have a common enemy here, being the corporate body: the regents — who apparently have very little interest in undergraduate education and serving most of California’s citizens,” Rotkin said.
Sanchez noted that he thinks the reason no one has been able to come to an agreement thus far is because everyone involved in the budget crisis is pinning the blame elsewhere.
“We blame UCOP [the University of California Office of the President] and they blame the legislature,” Sanchez said. “Nobody wants to take responsibility for what is going on, but I think at the end of the day it comes down to the pressure that’s put on specific points that is really going to create creative change, because we are not going to budge.”
Those who attended the meeting agreed to come together in the future to resist the negative impacts from the state.
“You see a lot of emotion and energy behind this,” Sanchez said, “because the budget cuts are chopping away at a lot of people’s futures.”